Thursday, October 30, 2008

Where Arguments Over Prop 8 End Up

In debating over Proposition 8, I have been involved in a discussion--argument, fight--with one Scott Baxter (Orange County, CA). The line eventually lead to the issue of God. I feel parts of the recent thread are worth sharing and keeping here.

As for my relationship with God, I think you perhaps assume to much. You are right that there is something in reading this that reminds me to look to Him for support. You encourage turning to Him, offering myself entirely to His will and accepting Jesus and Lord as if I had not. I have Scott, years ago. It was not a simple general prayer one day. I spent months in prayer and fasting listening to the Holy Spirit to give me guidance in how God would have me deal with my sexuality. Even after receiving very powerful, direct answers I continued on to make sure it was not just a defense mechanism telling me what I wanted to hear. I have dug deep into my psyche and soul and found layers of understanding most people never even consider. I continue to probe ever deeper and have no desire to stop. Over the years my soul has been touched in ways and my mind opened to things I consider too sacred to speak of in detail in this kind of forum. What I will say is I know God is totally accepting of me embracing my homosexuality and seeking a male partner--"husband"--to share my life with. This is not a carte blanche on my sexual behavior or a statement on how others have dealt with their issues of sexuality and marriage. However, just because something can be misused does not negate the use of it for good, and I hope you can understand why I feel so passionately about the issue of same-sex marriage. As for the struggle you see, it is against those who would have me go against what God has revealed to me to fit what they think God wants. I would think it better to fight man for the space to do as God has told me is good for me to do than go against Him to appease those around me. I did it once before, believing those people knew what God wanted; it not only nearly cost me my life but my soul as well.

I do not wish you ill, Scott, but I will fight you if you insist on trying to make me go against God's will for my life.

Thank You Rational Friends

Every political season is highly stressful for me. Debates over candidates and issues rage across society. Claims are made, accusations fly, and we are left to sort the pieces back into whatever the truth of the matter is.

This political season has been particularly stressful for me. Perhaps it is due to following the issues and competing views more closely than I have ever done before. Perhaps it is the state of our society at this time, standing on the edge of collapse, has put us on such intense alert we dare not allow the wrong plan be followed.

The most stressful for me has been the debates, argument, and even downright fights over the issue of same-sex marriage and California's Proposition 8. I have seen such intensity of anger, fear, and hatred from both sides of the issue to feel overwhelmed. Even I admit to becoming emotional with some over the issues. I truly feel there are some out there who want to do me harm over the issue of sexuality, and if they were given power would perpetuate the harms we have seen in the past. As Dr. M. Scott Peck points out in People of the Lie, "politics is a prime forum to observe and interact with the psychology of evil."

I want to thank all of you who have been respectful, considerate, and rational in dealing with the issues we are facing in these days. I would rather have a friend who can respectfully disagree after considering my position than someone intolerant and irrational on my side of the issue.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Responses to Feelings Regarding Prop 8

Recently a cousin of mine wrote a Facebook note about her feelings regarding Proposition 8 in California. She quoted Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

ELDER DALLIN H OAKS: This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like “homophobic.” In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle.

Believing that I, too, must make a stand on principle, I commented:

I want to say something here, but I don't know how to put it. I understand what Elder Oaks, and other General Authorities, are trying to do under this issue. In many ways I agree that many have pushed their activism too far. On the other hand, I feel the Church and many of the GA's are doing the same thing: trying to push their view on the rest of the world and blowing certain instances out of proportion to give support to their view.

As I expected, a number of people have responded to my comment with rhetoric such as “Is the Church true or not?”, “FOLLOW THE PROPHET,” and “The 12 Apostles and First presidency are not politicians…. They tell us what God wants the world to know.” These responses are all too evident of an inability I see in many members of the LDS church, and other faiths as well, to distinguish between their ecclesiastical leaders and God himself. However, that leads towards a discussion I will leave to another time.

My desire to respond to my cousin’s post was not to say that the LDS church had no business nor even the right to support Proposition 8 or carry the views and beliefs it does regarding same-sex marriage. I understand its position and believe there are legitimate concerns and issues over the matter that must be addressed. What does bother me is how the Church and its leaders have gone about trying to support their view. On October 16, 2008 the LDS church published an article “The Divine Institution of Marriage”. In this article the issue of encroachment on the rights of churches is brought up (see under the heading “Tolerance, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom”). I believe this is a legitimate concern. However, I find the treatment and support of these concerns unethical. So as not to make this note unnecessarily long, please read Morris A. Thurston’s rebuttal of “Six Consequences the Coalition Has Identified if Proposition 8 Fails” on Thurston has also posted a commentary on the responses he has received regarding his rebuttal.

As for the quote my cousin posted from Elder Oaks, the case of a pastor being imprisoned for preaching the sinful nature of homosexuality is not cited leaving me only to theorize on the incident. On the one hand I can see it possible that the pastor was being denied his rights to faith and free speech. However, I have seen all too often those who hide behind claims of free speech to incite blatant hatred, even violence, against others. I have heard pastors condone refusing homosexuals health care and housing. Some have even openly proclaimed that God will justify and bless those who beat or even kill homosexuals. Take basically anything from One organization tried to buy the lot next to Matthew Shepherd’s grave so they could erect a monument saying “Matthew Shepeherd has burned in Hell since October 12, 1998.” I even had a discussion with an LDS “friend” from high school who openly admitted he wants to pointedly discriminate against homosexuals, i.e., deny them employment benefits.

In the end what I want everyone out there to consider is are you doing what you do only because an authority figure said so? or have you searched out information beyond just what they say and make the decision educated and aware of what the issue and situation actually are?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Arguments Over Equal Marriage

With Proposition 8 looming in California many are making their views known with posting groups, blogs, videos, etc. Some have legitimate concerns about infringement on personal and religious beliefs. Most of them, however, seem to stem from beliefs that allowing equal marriage will somehow result in an apocalyptic implosion of society and the human race.

I recently had a discussion with a "friend" on Facebook. He pointed me to a forum where he had debated the issue with a young man. This young man compiled a list of arguments he has heard and put together an intelligent list of rebuttals. I thought it worthy of reposing with all points integrated.

Gay Unions

The official position of me on the issue of gay unions is: They ought be allowed. His reasoning is as follows, along with other relevant statements:

  1. There is no rational reason to bar gay unions.

    1. Given that there is no pressing reason for the state to intervene in this matter, other considerations ought be given far more weight.

    2. The predicted harms of gay marriage have not been observed in any society.

    3. Very few people who make these arguments are willing to make them to a gay person – that is, they will not be willing to say that the specific gay person in question is not capable of parenting, or is not capable of being faithful, or any such: This inability exposes the non-categorical nature of the assertions in question, and indicates a large problem in statistical validity and intellectual integrity.

  2. In the interest of the values of equality and liberty, gay unions ought to be allowed.

    1. Allowing people to live in a manner that they see fit, when it does not harm the liberty of others, leads to prosperous societies. As well, the state should only assume the roles necessary to fulfill its obligations.

  3. Gay marriage promotes tolerance and reduces hate within society.

  4. The promotion of loving relationships is in the interests of society.

  5. Opposition to gay unions tends to come from bigotry, rather than reasoned analysis.

This position makes many values assumptions, including (but not limited to): High emphasis on liberty and equality and tolerance, emphasis on privacy. Anti-values are placed on religion.

The following are common arguments that have been levied against this position. I respond accordingly:

1. “Gay unions results in the collapse of society.” - Harms

(1.1.) This has not been demonstrated. An analysis of societies today that allow for gay unions indicate that, at minimum, gay unions has a negligible impact. There does seem to be a strong correlation between gay unions and social prosperity, and this correlation would seem to destroy any attempt at demonstrating that gay unions results in collapse.

1.1.1. “But not enough time has passed.”

( Gay unions have been legal in some jurisdictions now for nearly 18 years (as of 2007) and this would seem to be ample time to see some effect.

( No mechanism has been provided for why there would be any sort of delay in seeing this.

2. “Gay unions will result in more people becoming gay, resulting in fewer children, and thus will result in the collapse of society.” - Harms

(2.1.) If sexuality cannot on balance be chosen, then people will quickly determine that (on average) they are heterosexual and thus will continue to procreate in the typical manner.

(2.2.) If sexuality can on balance be chosen, no rational person would choose to be gay: At worst, they would choose bisexuality for that enables them to maximize sexual pleasure. Otherwise, they would choose heterosexuality, for that allows them to integrate most easily with the rest of society. Furthermore, if sexuality can be chosen in such a manner, then people will simply choose to have a baby at such time that they wish to.

(2.3.) The human race at present is facing no threat of extinction due to low population. Indeed, the human race is at present suffering from massive overpopulation, and therefore this argument can be turned to support gay unions.

4. “Gays themselves are harmed by higher incidence of disease that accompany unions.” - Harms

(4.1.) The specific rate of disease cannot be determined due to problems in biased sample sizes.

(4.2.) Assuming the rate of disease is high, marriage has no impact on this: There is no mechanism by which marriage would increase risky behaviors within this group, since it is likely that such a group is partaking in those activities anyway. Rather, marriage would seem to decrease such risk, by reducing social pressures against gays and promoting monogamous values.

5. “Gays have a higher rate of disease or some other negative trait.”

(5.1.) A disease test has never been a qualification of marriage, nor should it be: As long as the two people consent, the government has no business telling them that their love does or does not have worth.

6. “Gay unions allow for polygamy.”

(6.1.) Unions are a legal contract between two people granting them certain benefits and responsibilities. These benefits only fit within the dynamic of a two person relationship and logically break when expanded beyond this (For instance, deciding succession of power of attorney).

6.1.1. “But shouldn’t the government be nondiscriminatory when it comes to love?”

( Indeed, and if multiple people wish to enter into a relationship that bestows upon them such legal benefits, they ought be able to. At present, it seems that the legal relationship best approximating this is that of a corporation.

(6.2.) The slope is not particularly slippery: Given the resistance to even gay marriage, polygamy seems very far off.

(6.3.) It is entirely possible to draw the line somewhere.

(6.4.) This argument is an argument against marriage in general: If we allow any union between two people, then there is always the possibility that we will then allow a union between 3 people. Therefore, by this argument, all marriage ought be banned.

(6.5.) This argument ultimately relies on the assumption that there is nothing wrong with gay marriage itself per se, but rather that it might lead to something negative. Given 6.1.-6.4., this argument is thus negated entirely.

7. “The Bible says…”

(7.1.) The Bible is not a reliable source of truth, nor is it a particularly good source of moral adjudication.

8. “Gay sexual interaction is icky.”

(8.1.) The issue at hand is one of whether they ought be allowed to enter into a specific legal contract, not whether you ought to be forced to watch them have sex.

(8.2.) Your personal distaste for a specific form of conduct, so long as such conduct does not substantially harm you or anyone else, is not valid in any debate.

9. “Homosexuality is against nature.”

(9.1.) Homosexuality is observed very frequently in nature.

(9.2.) Appeals to nature lead to undesirable moral consequences: It is true that murder is a part of nature. Is it therefore good? Antibiotics are unnatural: Are they therefore bad?

10. “Might children be turned gay?”

(10.1.) There is no research to indicate this.

(10.2.) Please see 2.1. and 2.2.

(10.3.) This appears to be about as equally valid as the statement “Straight parents will raise only straight children”

11. “If gays get married, they will face discrimination.”

(11.1.) Gays ought be allowed whether to take that risk or not.

(11.2.) It seems highly likely that same-sex marriage will actually remove continued discrimination and stigmas against homosexuality.

12. “Marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman.”

(12.1.) The logic of this argument relies on traditional things always being good. Racism has also been a traditional institution, but one that has been found incompatible with present day beliefs. By this logic, racism must be accepted since it has traditionally been so.

(12.2.) Marriage has traditionally been almost a property relationship with the man as owner and woman as object. For instance, in Colonial America it was legal for a man to beat his wife, since it was not generally seen that women had such rights to question their husbands. Since this is generally not accepted as moral, the argument from tradition must fail.

(12.3.) In many societies, same-sex relationships were normal prior to the introduction of Christianity.

13. “Voters have rejected this.”

(13.1.) Arguments from popularity are not a substitute for logical argumentation.

(13.2.) This objection speaks nothing to the morality of gay unions.

14. “Marriage is about procreation.”

(14.1.) It is generally not accepted that marriage must form in order to create children, and many couples often debate whether or not to have children: Such a debate would not take place if marriage was truly considered to be about procreation.

(14.2.) There is no, nor has there ever been, a child-bearing qualification to marriage.

(14.3.) The fundamental rationale for marriage, the stability it lends to society in the formation of stable relationships, is completely divorced from the issue of procreation.

(14.4.) Generally proposals to restrict marriage to only those who are capable of bearing children, to legislate that children must be born or the union dissolved, or to even define marriage strictly as between two parents have all generally enjoyed very little support, even among opponents of gay unions, thus indicating that this objection is not a sufficient motivator to action. Indeed, if that is the purpose of marriage, then marriage ought begin the second a baby is born, and end the second a woman is no longer capable of either raising biological children or bearing more.

14.4.1. “Because of practical/privacy limitations, we cannot investigate these straight marriages to see if they have children. However, a gay marriage by definition cannot provide biological children, and thus few resources are expended to meet this goal.”

( It seems like it would be a trivial matter for a government agency to, after 5 years of the creation of a straight union, check if any children have been registered to the parents.

( Defining marriage as occurring at the exact moment of birth between the parents avoids the problem of investigation entirely. The moment the child is born and given a birth certificate, the parents are also given a marriage certificate.

( The lack of support for the above measures means the original point stands.

( Defining an acceptable marriage as only one that has biological children ignores that non-biological children can also be raised. (Cross apply 14.5. here)

( If, on balance, marriage is about procreation then privacy limitations ought not apply: The entire purpose of marriage is procreation, and therefore is the sanctity of marriage is to be upheld the government must investigate in accordance with or

(14.5.) Gays are capable of reproduction, and are more than capable of adoption, which is desperately needed in a world abundant with unwanted children. Basically the point seems to be that one has to define the moral imperative of marriage as raising only biological children, and it seems difficult to justify a differentiation between biological and non-biological children in this ethical mathematics.

15. “I love my mother – why shouldn’t I be able to marry her?”

(15.1.) I have no opposition to marriage between two consenting adults.

(15.2.) One can logically argue that the marriage between two lovers is the only type of union that contributes to the safety of society, whereas the love between a mother and child is qualitatively different and serves no function in recognition.

16. “Gender roles will be confused in children raised in such households. “

(16.1.) There is no evidence to indicate this.

(16.2.) Gender roles are generally negative anyway.

(16.3.) Teaching gender roles has never been a qualification for marriage.

17. Gays can get these rights using other means.

(17.1.) Gays ought not need to resort to other methods to secure the same rights, incurring additional costs for the same rights.

(17.2.) By attempting this argument, one automatically concedes that there is no material harm in allowing gay unions, since the end result of either using a lawyer to secure these rights individually or using unions to secure them collectively is the same: If it is harmful only in one situation but not another, one must demonstrate the substantive difference between the two.

(17.3.) Not all rights can be restored in this manner.

18. “Gays make bad parents.”

(18.1.) There is no evidence to indicate this.

(18.2.) Parenting skills have never been used as a qualification for marriage.

(18.3.) The Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers disagree.

19. “Judges are legislating from the bench.”

(19.1.) Judges are fulfilling their constitutional role to adjudicate the law.

(19.2.) Judges have traditionally ruled in favor of protecting minority rights, as it has always been known that the majority will likely vote to discriminate if given the chance. Indeed, fear of the tyranny of the majority if one reason why the judiciary is kept independent of the other two branches.

20. “Gays already have equal rights – they can marriage people of the opposite gender too.”

(20.1.) If an amendment were passed saying that the only valid marriages would be same-sex marriages, heterosexuals would justly feel persecuted.

(20.2.) This argument plays on semantics: Instead of going for equality in spirit, the argument attempts to go for equality in syntax.

21. “Gays are not capable of love for each other.”

(21.1.) There is no evidence to indicate this.

(21.2.) Proving ones love has never been a qualification for marriage.

22. “Gays do not represent a significant enough portion of the population to merit this.”

(22.1.) This does not speak to the morality of the issue in question.

(22.2.) To say that a minority is too small to be protected from discrimination is not morally correct.

(22.3.) Other minorities also exist that are small: Jews make up 5% of the US population, however it would be wildly improper to discriminate against them.

23 “Can’t they just have civil unions?”

(23.1.) This argument admits that marriage poses no threat.

(23.2.) Civil unions continue to remain discriminatory, creating a special class of marriage for “the gays” and the regular class for “the rest of us”. This would not be considered proper for any other group of people.

24. “Forcing me to accept gay marriage is against my religious beliefs.”

(24.1.) Allowing gay marriage only forces the state to recognize the legal contract – others, including churches, may or may not recognize this union depending upon their own personal preferences.

(24.2.) This argument is wildly subjective: If some religion considers heterosexual marriages to be immoral, should they then be dissolved?

(24.3.) Your right to practice your religion in private is not being infringed upon.

25. “People might marry into fraudulent weddings in order to gain legal benefits, such as health coverage.”

(25.1.) There is no evidence to suggest that heterosexuals will rush to have homosexual weddings for any reason.

(25.2.) Heterosexuals are not prevented from engaging in such sham-weddings right now with members of the opposite sex.

26. “Gay marriage undermines the health of the traditional family.”

(26.1.) The health of the traditional family seems to be self-destructing (in the United States) well on its own.

(26.2.) The “traditional family” is a very nebulous concept.

(26.3.) The “threat” is fairly vaguely defined – indeed, typically defined in such a way that it means nothing at all, and is simply a talking point.

(26.4.) In the United States, it has been found that divorce rates in the only state in the Union to legalize gay marriage were among the lowest in the nation, and continued their downward trend, whereas states that oppose gay marriage experienced an increase in divorce rates.

27 “Gay marriage advocates want to destroy the traditional family and/or society.”

(27.1.) This is an ad hominem attack.

(27.2.) This is a conspiracy theory.

(27.3.) There is no evidence for this.

28. “Gay marriage will lead to man-beast relationships.”

(28.1.) An animal is not able to consent, which is required under common law.

29. Homosexuals molest children.”

(29.1.) There is no evidence to indicate this.

(29.2.) Profiling of this nature is not used in determining valid marriages.

30. “Homosexuals can be cured of their disease.”

(30.1.) The science increasingly is demonstrating this to be unlikely.

(30.2.) It is not relevant anyway: Absent another reason to bar gay unions, it comes down to liberty and equality, which necessarily lead to gay unions.

31. “The Founding Fathers never intended for this.”

(31.1.) The intent of the Founding Fathers is not a proper measure of the validity of a thing, for the Founding fathers lived in a time where such things as racism and sexism were commonplace. The Founding Fathers did not intend for the direct election of Senators, for instance, but it would seem undemocratic to do anything else now.

31.1.1. “This is a weak argument in favor of gay unions.”

( It is not intended to be an argument in favor of same-sex unions. Rather, it is a response to an invalid argument against same sex unions.

(31.2.) The Founding Fathers did not particularly speak on the issue of marriage, since it wasn’t that large of an issue at the time.

(31.3.) The feelings of the Founding Fathers are not relevant to the morality of a thing.

32. “Gay unions could cause civil strife.”

(32.1.) There is no evidence for this.

(32.2.) Any problems related to civil strife would be the fault of those violating the law, not the fault of gay people.

(32.3.) Other controversial equality measures, such as interracial marriage, also posed the threat of causing civil strife. The interests of equality and liberty prevail over this.

33. “Gay unions legitimise homosexuality.”

(33.1.) This would not be a negative thing.

(33.2.) Gay unions only remove discrimination: They do not “promote” homosexuality.

34. “Marriage is not the domain of the state.”

(34.1.) As long as the state does sanction marriages, gay marriage leads to less government intervention in the lives of the people versus not having it, since the state no longer discriminates and presents obstacles to people living their own lives in the way that they see fit.

(34.2.) The formation of stable unions can be said to be in the interests of securing both the negative and positive liberty of the people.

35. “Gay unions would increase the spread of disease.”

(35.1.) There is no evidence for this.

(35.2.) The spread of disease has never been a factor in allowing straights to marry.

36. “Gay marriage will cost too much money.”

(36.1.) For gays, gay marriage would increase the amount of money they receive from such things as social security by $5,000, pensions, and other sources, thus increasing their economic power.

(36.2.) The cost on employers in areas that allow gay marriage has been extremely marginal, enough so to be insignificant.

(36.3.) The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the government would take in $1 billion if all 50 states allowed gay marriage.

37. Gay unions will lead to a decline in religious freedom.”

(37.1.) Gay unions, being a matter of the state, do not particularly affect religion in any way.

38. “It will become socially unacceptable to oppose gay unions if we allow them.”

(38.1.) This is a matter of democratic social convention and is thus not particularly relevant to the debate.

(38.2.) Reducing the amount of intolerance in society is a positive thing.

(38.3.) If your idea will become unpopular with the introduction of gay unions, perhaps it is your idea that needs to be reassessed.

39. “Most child molesters molest same-sex.”

(39.1.) This is not correct: Most victims are female, most perpetrators are male, and they tend to know each other.

(39.2.) Many same-sex molestations (indeed, many different-sex molestations) occur more as a desire for power or control rather than due to sexual attraction.

(39.3.) In order for this argument to carry weight, one needs to demonstrate that any significant portion of gay people will molest, which there is no evidence for.

39.3.1. “Gays have a higher chance of being child molesters than other sectors of the population.”

( There is no evidence to indicate this.

( A significant portion of the total gay population would be required to make this argument carry weight, not merely a deviation from average.

( Please see 39.4.

(39.4.) Past criminal history is not a standard for marriage – straight marriages are not forbidden because of such.